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SLOAN v. SECRETARY OF HHS

October 13, 1987

James Sloan, Plaintiff,
v.
Secretary of Health and Human Services, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMPSON

 NATURE OF ACTION

 This is an action under Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to review the final decision of the Secretary denying plaintiff's claim for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits.

 PROCEDURAL HISTORY

 Plaintiff, James Sloan, initially filed for benefits on January 23, 1980. Plaintiff alleged an inability to work due to lung disease and heart condition. The application was granted on initial review with the onset date set as March 7, 1977. Upon learning that plaintiff last met the earning requirement for disability benefits on March 31, 1976, the Secretary reopened the decision. The Secretary, in a decision dated June 28, 1980, noted that although the claimant is presently disabled he was not disabled on or before March 31, 1976. Accordingly, the Secretary denied plaintiff's application for benefits. This decision was affirmed on reconsideration.

 On October 6, 1982, a hearing was held before an administrative law judge ["ALJ"]. The ALJ found that plaintiff was not entitled to a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Secretary when it was affirmed by the Appeals Council on May 26, 1983. Plaintiff subsequently filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. Pursuant to § 205(g) of the Social Security Act the case was remanded to the Secretary. On remand, the Secretary was instructed to reevaluate all the evidence of record in light of the Veterans Administration's finding that plaintiff was disabled as of March of 1976. The Secretary was also instructed to consider the report of plaintiff's treating physician with respect to the Act's durational requirement.

 In a decision dated June 20, 1985, the ALJ again found that plaintiff was not entitled to a period of disability or disability insurance benefits. This decision was affirmed by the Appeals Council on September 18, 1985. Plaintiff then filed to have the case reopened by this court.

 STATEMENT OF FACTS

 The plaintiff, James Sloan, who is now 56 years of age, is a high school graduate. He has been a heavy equipment operator for nearly twenty-five years.

 MEDICAL EVIDENCE

 Plaintiff first stopped working on June 15, 1975 because of a broken arm. Due to chest pains and shortness of breath plaintiff never returned to work. In February of 1976 his chest pains became so severe that at one time he was taken to the emergency room of a hospital. Plaintiff testified that he takes nitroglycerin for his chest pains depending upon their severity. Plaintiff also testified that he has difficulty sleeping because he is unable to lie on his back. Furthermore, plaintiff is unable to do any shopping or cleaning as he tires after walking half a block. Plaintiff's disability report of January 23, 1980 states that he suffered from heart attacks in June of 1975, June of 1976, and February of 1979. Plaintiff is currently receiving Veterans Administration disability benefits. The Veterans Administration found plaintiff disabled as of March of 1976.

 In a report of June 24, 1980, plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Ricaurte Camilo, states that plaintiff was seen on four occasions between February and April of 1976 for chest pain and shortness of breath. Dr. Camilo's first examination of plaintiff in February of 1976 revealed chronic lung disease, emphysema, and left ventricular hypertrophy. Dr. Camilo found plaintiff to be totally disabled as of February 17, 1976.

 DISCUSSION

 A decision of the Secretary concerning disability benefits must be upheld by the court if an examination of the record reveals substantial evidence supporting the Secretary's conclusion. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is "more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842, 91 S. Ct. 1420 (1971), quoting, Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229, 83 L. Ed. 126, 59 S. Ct. 206 (1938), Smith v. Califano, 637 F.2d 968, 970 (3d Cir. 1981). If there is only a slight preponderance of the evidence on one side or the other, the Secretary's finding should be affirmed. Toborowski v. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, 363 F. Supp. 717 (E.D. Pa. 1973). Thus, the court is to look at the record as a whole and determine whether ...


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